Decorating your home or undertaking a reno is very exciting, but it can also be incredibly daunting, especially if you are time-poor. Hiring an Interior Designer to manage the entire project and help you pull your ideas together sounds like a great idea, but the thought of finding the right one is overwhelming. Where do you even start?
Doing some research before you choose your interior designer is really important. You should spend some time looking around, reading reviews, checking their social media and portfolio and suss out if your personalities will align. I talk about the connection I have between myself and my clients quite often because truthfully, we will be in each other’s lives for some time. Some of my clients are with me for over a year!
Here are some of the top questions I’d encourage you to ask your interior designer before you hire them, along with the answers I’d give to you.
Think of this question like the typical interview question “why do you think this job is right for you”? By asking the designer which projects they’d take on, you get to understand their logic behind the ones they refuse. Hearing about the ones they refuse, can say a lot about their business and goals.
I listen to my gut. I need to get a good feeling from our first conversation. If I sense that you are not invested in the process, and will struggle to trust my decisions, it wont work out. I am proud of every job I do, and I cannot put my name on something you edit afterwards. This is a collaborative design journey, and there will be a certain amount of trust required from you, to me.
If I don’t believe we can achieve your desired look, within your budget, I’ll have to politely decline the project. I’ll also have to decline the project if it feels too rushed. Furniture lead times and custom cabinetry takes months these days. Trying to complete a design, purely for a lead time, isn’t enjoyable for me and I don’t take on projects that I won’t enjoy. And lastly, if your design style doesn’t suit my strengths, I’ll have to say no to that too.”
You might be the type of person who wants to be involved every step of the way or maybe you have very little interest in the process and you just want results. You need to figure out which person you are before you contact your interior designer because they won’t adjust their methods, just for you. You need to pick someone, who lets you participate as much or as little as you’d like.
While I welcome collaboration from my clients and ultimately want them to love everything, I do prefer to pick everything for them and present the concept in a “Ta-Da” moment. I spend enough time at the start of our journey together, getting to know you, your style, your needs and your goals. Once I feel like I have enough information, I go off and pick everything for you. It’s exciting for both of us to reveal the concept at the end. Sometimes, if I am torn between two products, I like to share the options with my client.
If you have trouble making decisions or trusting the decisions I have made for you, it can really complicate things and hinder my creativity. Chances are, you are hiring someone because you can’t make your mind up, so let me do that for you.
This is a great question to figure out the calibre of retails your interior designer tends to shop with. It gives you a chance to see if they aim for the top, middle or lower price ranges which may or may not align with your budget. This is a good indicator of quality also, as the lower-priced retails won’t offer the best quality which may be important to you.
This depends on your budget, your timeframe and your preferred quality. I can source from anywhere but I always use companies whose quality I trust. When working with me, you’ll get access to my trade discounts so it would be silly to purchase from basic suppliers where we get no discount (Ikea, Freedom, Kmart). I always try to make you back your design fee via these savings, which is a nice perk for you. I won’t list every supplier here, as I have so many sources. I am more than happy to list a few during our discovery phone call together – or check out my Instagram. I often tag companies in my posts.
It is important for you to feel looked after and nurtured. If you don’t require much contact with your designer, then this won’t matter so much. But you might want peace of mind knowing that your designer can take your call or respond to your email promptly. Some of the larger design firms will take on multiple projects at once, and the designer you meet initially may not be the actual designer who works on your project.
I only take on one large or two small projects at a time. For me, once my head is in your space, I don’t want any distractions. My small business consists of me, myself and I, so you know exactly who will be working on your design.
You might want to take on someone who takes the reins on all aspects of the project. This can include finding and dealing with all trades on your behalf, arranging all deliveries, being present to accept deliveries, and maybe even storing all products in their warehouse so that deliveries can happen in one single day. You need to assess just how much assistance you require but remember the more assistance, the higher the cost.
For me, communication is key. I put a lot of effort into getting to know you before I begin designing your home so that I can present a concept that truly reflects you and your family. I understand that your home is a part of you.
My clients have praised me for my efficiency, punctuality with meetings and timelines, organisational and communication skills. They feel confident in my design abilities and are comfortable working closely with me.
I will take care of all the difficult decisions to ensure the project runs smoothly. I do have trades I have worked with in the past, but I also ask you to do some research too because ultimately, you are the one hiring the tradesperson. I will be on-site to go through any cabinetry/custom joinery designs with the tradesperson. The deliveries happen as and when they are ready to be delivered from each retail, or (sometimes) we can ask for things to be held so that your deliveries can arrive within the same day/week.
This can be a big tell-tale to see if your interior designer’s style aligns with your vision. If you can appreciate the designers that inspire them, then you know you are in in good hands.
I absolutely love “Studio McGee“. I love the cosy, inviting and homely feel she injects into every single project and her ability to manipulate space using scale and colour. She mixes modern with farmhouse and glam to create a truly inviting interior. To me, her style is timeless because it is a hybrid of styles which is how I see my own style. I also like “Leclair Decor” who has a similar style to Studio McGee. It is her use of the colour Black that catches my attention!
For a more high-end, modern look, I love everything that Mim Design do. I fell in love with their work the moment I walked into Au79 Cafe in Abbotsford, Melbourne! They inspire me greatly and I feel like their style speaks to everyone. They use a lot of brass which is my favourite metal, mixed with natural stone. The materials do the talking in their architectural designs.
Every designer will have a signature style that they migrate towards even if they vary from this slightly to suit their client’s scope of work. Find out what projects motivate your interior designer! Maybe they specialize in Hamptons, modern or an eclectic style. Take a look at the colour palettes they tend to use in their designs and other elements that tie the room together to see if their style appeals to you.
It’s hard to narrow down one style, isn’t it? I’ll be honest, there isn’t one singular style that I embody. Some designers are clearly Hamptons, or Boho or Scandi but me…I can easily adapt to many styles! I can tell you what I don’t like though. I don’t like Mid Century, Traditional, Ornate or Eclectic. I tend to migrate towards a more classic, modern, glam style and love symmetry, coordination and texture.
I generally stick to a neutral palette, focusing on textures and colours within the furniture and decor. You’ll always find a touch of greenery, brass and black furniture in my work!
This must be the most asked and controversial question in the Interior Design industry when really it shouldn’t matter. Interior Designers get access to great prices from the majority of retailers and suppliers. And so they should. We are loyal, repeat customers and have worked very hard to get these discounts through our businesses.
Trade discounts vary from retail to retail and can be anywhere from 5% to 50% off the retail price. This discount can be split between client and designer, passed entirely to the client or kept entirely by designers as a primary method of income.
Interior Designers can choose how much of their trade discount they’d like to share with their clients. After trying all options, I have settled on splitting trade discounts with my clients 30/70 (30% kept by me as a procurement fee, 70% passed to the client). This ensures that my clients always get their design fee back in the end and they can save some money too. With my method of 30/70, my initial design fees are accessible to the average homeowner.
I don’t have to worry about whether or not you shop through me, or how much discount I can get for you, because I charge a design fee. I try to shop at places that offer bigger discounts to ensure you get a better bang for your buck and get your design fee back in the end.
You need to understand about design amendments and the process your designer takes to ensure you are happy with the design proposal in the end. You don’t want to be hit with a big fee if your designer has to resource things for you. There should be a certain amount of complimentary changes.
That is perfectly fine and somewhat expected. I encourage you to be open and honest with me about the design proposal. During our initial consultation, I ask enough questions to figure out what you like and don’t like to avoid any dissatisfaction.
Product sourcing is perhaps the most time-consuming task within the design concept phase. When I am looking for the perfect product for you I am considering your budget, the quality of the item, the design, the material, the longevity, and the location of the item (is it near a window? If so, we need to think about colour fasting) etc. Every single item I pick has been thoughtfully considered and planned for your home. Nothing will be picked without reason, I guarantee you.
With my Interior Design and E-Design Services, you are entitled to a number of amendments (determined on each service page). If you require more amendments than your service agrees to, there will be a small resourcing fee per product. This fee is to cover (some of) the extra time it will take to source another suitable product for you. It is also there, to discourage you from changing your mind too many times and getting confused.
To date, I have never needed to charge my clients a resourcing fee because there are usually only a handful of changes to make.
Bottom line….don’t hire someone who makes you feel uncomfortable, unworthy or intimidated. I’ll be frank, some designers are snoby and don’t want their clients to have a strong opinion. It’s their way or the highway. They care more about their portfolio or reputation than their client’s actual needs. That might suit you, but it certainly wouldn’t suit me. If I were in your shoes, I’d be taking my time to get to know a couple of designers first, because I’d want my house to reflect my personal style.
Take your time, and choose well.